Saturday, April 09, 2011

Whither the Integrity of Millard Fillmore?

now finished: Millard Fillmore: Biography of a President by Robert Rayback

All in all I am a fan of Millard. Also, this was a more-than-decent bio that got me even more interested in a.)Millard Fillmore b.)New York politics of the early to mid-19th century c.)Buffalo.

Seriously, Buffalo was where it was AT when that there Erie canal was getting built and opening up waterways and the town was becoming an important port city for shipping and trade. And Millard and his wife just kind of strolled in and became important fixtures of the Buffalo social scene.

Millard took a whole lot of flak from newspaper man and would be president-maker Thurlow Weed over the years. I do not know who today is comparable to Thurlow Weed. He's not even like a Bill O'Reilly - his influence seems even more pernicious. I mean, he really got people to do what he wanted and nominate whom he wanted and he was more like a kind of sinister Oprah.

But Millard, apparently, had integrity. Even in his fights with Thurlow, disagreements with Zachary Taylor, and resolve to keep the union from breaking up over the slavery issue, he always acted with integrity. Who doesn't love a little integrity in a president? I mean, not that we've had that a lot in our lifetimes, but who doesn't love the idea of it?

People joke about Millard, apparently, as being the most obscure president, but I have never thought of him that way. (My favorite obscure prez is Rutherford B. Hayes.) Reading a bio of Millard really shows one that he was an important figure and quite a success at many things in his life, not some random who strolled out of nowhere to the national scene.

Of course, another tragedy struck when his wife died right as he was leaving office. And then his daughter died a year or two (I forget) later. I'm getting so overwhelmed by all these presidential tragedies. Presidents dying in office, presidents dying right when they leave office to settle into retirement, presidents' spouses much sadness!

Three cheers for Millard.

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